Sunday, January 17

Transforming the Ordinary into Extraordinary Joy: Sermon for the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Water into wine at a wedding, this is the first sign that Jesus performed. We have here such a tiny and puzzling story.

In the grand scheme of things, the event is insignificant and we know very little about this wedding at Cana except that these were friends or possibly even family of Mary and Jesus.

John is the only gospel to recount this event and John will eventually tell us that this is indeed very
significant, though it is also very ordinary and happened in an insignificant place in this backwater of the Roman Empire, Galilee.

John sets us up to see this event as significant. This wedding that is otherwise a quite ordinary event, a wedding in an insignificant town in Galilee, that would be unknown to us except for this story.  We don’t even know the names of the couple being married. The event in and of itself is like so many events in our lives, and event that will be repeated by many others, forgotten in time.

John says this wedding took place on the third day.  If we read the Gospel in a literal historical way, we may think John is saying that this took place on the third day after John Identified Jesus as the Lamb of God and Jesus’ first disciples started to follow him.  But it is more likely that saying this occurred on the third day is to make us think of the Resurrection.  Just before this Jesus tells Nathaniel that he will see the heavens opened up and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of man, a reference to the crucifixion.  John has prepared us to see this as no ordinary event, even though it is simply an ordinary wedding of ordinary people in an ordinary town.

Even so, Jesus doesn’t at first see the significance of this moment, rather it is his mother, Mary, who sees and at whose behest and insistence he performs this his first sign that reveals Jesus’ glory and the glory of God.  Jesus even says that it is not time, the Third day hasn’t yet come, and yet it is already the Third day.

In this moment things begin to blur. Jesus provides some of the best wine the steward of the wedding feast has ever tasted, and in that moment this ordinary wedding feast becomes a feast of the kingdom of God, the wedding feast of the Lamb.

And so we read Isaiah 62 where God promises to marry Israel and the land.  And so there has been speculation that this wedding at Cana was Jesus’ wedding, and this is why the bride and groom aren’t mentioned or named.  Historically speaking that is at best speculation, and at worst a form of literalism that obscures the significance of Jesus’ first sign.

In that moment, at an ordinary wedding, in an ordinary town, at the marriage of two people whose names are lost to history (perhaps John own memory), whose celebration was about to be cut short, Jesus in providing wine shows himself to be the Bridegroom, the one through whom God has married humanity and all creation.

Here at the beginning we are at the end. Here we are already at the joy of the Resurrection, of the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost and the consummation of all things, the marriage feast of the Lamb.
Mary insists on the joy of the celebration not being cut short, and so Jesus’ ministry that leads to the Cross, begins in joy and as a sign of the marriage of God and God’s creation in Jesus of Nazareth. This marriage isn’t complete or consummated without the Passion, and yet it was accomplished through God the son becoming human through Mary the mother of God.

Yes, lines are blurred, yes history and the insignificant and the significant come together in this moment. The wedding at Cana is and isn’t an ordinary wedding, and it was and wasn’t Jesus’ wedding feast, the wedding feast of the lamb.  This was the first sign that Jesus performed revealing his glory and his disciples believed in him. Through this sign of turning water into wine at an ordinary wedding, the wedding at Cana became the wedding feast of the lamb before its time.
Through this sign we like Mary may see and name the ways in which this joyful feast, the wedding feast of the lamb is breaking into our ordinary everyday lives. 

We are in ordinary Time after the Epiphany, we have begun counting Sundays, but this isn’t a time of drudgery or just killing time, rather it is a time infused with the light of Christ, of God’s manifestation in human flesh in Jesus of Nazareth.

May our hearts be changed in this time after the Epiphany, may we have eyes to see.  Don’t cut short the celebration.  Basque in the insight that the love and joy of union with God is found now, even in the midst of the most ordinary events, even in the midst of dreary and cold winter.  God will consummate this joy, and we will also know sorrow before all is accomplished.  Yet today is also the Third day, the time to celebrate, the day of our enlightenment.